By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Sheridan police did not threaten to shut down a Sheridan restaurant because its employees were not wearing face masks, a spokesman said Thursday.
Instead, Police Chief Rich Adriaens and another officer met with Smith Alley Brewing Co. co-owner Tiffany McCormick to explain the health rules that are in place as restaurants and bars begin to reopen across the state, said Lt. Tom Ringley.
“We never threatened to close the restaurant,” he said. “But closure could be a consequence of non-compliance. As far as we know, she’s in compliance of all of the mandates.”
On Wednesday, McCormick broadcast a 24-minute livestream on Facebook, telling viewers about how Adriaens and another uniformed officer told her that if her business didn’t comply with health regulations, it would be fined and its license could be revoked.
Last week, Sheridan County was given exemption approval to open its bars and restaurants before statewide orders were to begin relaxing on May 15. The exemption was granted by the state on the condition that restaurants follow 21 health safeguards, including one requiring staff members to wear face masks. The conditions are similar to those that will be in place when all the state’s restaurants and bars reopen Friday.
Of the 21 mandates, McCormick declined to require her employees to wear face masks, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
HIPPA guarantees the privacy of health care records and information. The ADA guarantees equal employment opportunities for the disabled.
“I, myself as an employer, cannot ask my employees why they refuse to wear a face-covering. I cannot ask them to do that,” McCormick said in the video.
Ringley said Adriaens and another officer met with McCormick after the department received a complaint about Smith’s employees not wearing masks around 12:40 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re trying to seek compliance through education, warnings and citations as an absolute last resort,” Ringley said. “When we got the complaint on Wednesday, Chief Adriaens and the second officer went and met with the owners to educate them on what the standard was and how they weren’t in compliance.”
Adriaens brought a second officer to the discussion because that officer was carrying a body camera and could record the entire encounter.
Later Wednesday night, an officer on foot patrol in downtown Sheridan checked in on the brewery and saw that employees were wearing masks, complying with health orders.
Ringley explained that he empathized with McCormick’s situation as a small business owner and understood why she might have complaints. But ultimately, the Sheridan police have no desire or authority to close any bar or restaurant, he said.
Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily in an email that a brewery wouldn’t be a fully-covered entity under HIPAA like the Health Department or a hospital would be.
“Beyond that, we will decline to interpret how privacy rules would or should be applied to a particular business,” Deti wrote. “The statewide and county public health orders in effect are lawful; enforcement is primarily left to the discretion of counties.”